If college basketball isn’t your No. 1 sport, you might want to stop reading.
Thanks for the click, though.
This is a pretty tough weekend for me.
I’m a huge college hoops fan. No, junkie. No, addict. Final Four weekend should be the pinnacle of my calendar year.
In some ways, it is. It’s a weekend full of coverage devoted to the college basketball world, all leading up to the biggest games of the year. It’s great.
But man, I can never seem to kick the voice in the back of my head, reminding me that there are already 347 teams that won’t see the floor again until November 6.
Okay, 345. Penn State and Utah are still duking it out for an NIT title.
In just a few short weeks, all 351 Division I teams will be in that category. It’s a scary reality we face every year when the calendar flips to April.
Maybe your team missed the tournament and you’ve already come to terms with the next several months of emptiness. Maybe your team had an early exit, or even went deeper than expected, and you’re just now starting to come to the realization that it’s truly over.
November 6 is 225 days away. Here’s a seven-step process that’ll help you cope with the loss of your favorite pastime.
Step One: Try to enjoy baseball for a little while
Make the early-season hype you have for baseball last as long as you possibly can. If you’re like me, it’s difficult to really lock into a 162-game season from start to finish. You may love the sport and enjoy watching it, but once you’re 20 or 30 games in and the season’s not even close to ending, it can start to get a little bland.
No offense, baseball fans. Your sport rocks. But if the college basketball season is what’s most ingrained in your sports-fan heart, MLB can be a rough follow.
Give it a shot, though. Pick up a team in your city, or one you have connections to. Maybe put some effort into the first several weeks of a fantasy baseball league.
Just, please, for the love of God, don’t join a buy-in league. You’re going to lose focus, and eventually, money.
Before you know it, your new favorite team will be 15 games under .500 and it won’t even be Memorial Day.
Step Two: Give the NBA playoffs another shot…
…because this year, they should provide more excitement — in terms of potential for surprises and quality matchups in each round, not just the conference finals and finals — than we’ve seen in a long time.
I’ll be honest. As someone who loves college hoops, I’ve struggled to truly enjoy the NBA the last several years. Sure, Warriors-Cavaliers was certainly an exciting series all three times it happened, but it was hard to follow six weeks’ worth of playoff basketball, knowing full well those two teams were going to meet in early June.
Keep an eye on the Houston Rockets. Or the Toronto Raptors. Or the Boston Celtics. Look out for names of rising stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, and Victor Oladipo. See how far “The Process” can carry itself in its first year of relevance. See if Lebron can get to an eighth straight finals.
Check on Steph Curry, and how his Warriors will fare without him for at least the first round. Spoiler: They’ll probably be fine. Find out if the red-hot Trail Blazers are for real.
The storylines go on. The basketball is high-quality. Maybe you’ll even see a recent alum of your favorite college team score two points and pick up three fouls in seven minutes. The memories are already flooding back!
The moral of the story? Give the NBA playoffs a shot. You’ll probably enjoy them.
Step Three: Get a summer job
I don’t know, just make some money. Pick up a few extra shifts. It passes the time.
Step Four: Attach yourself to a random World Cup team
Yes, the World Cup is awesome.
No, the United States didn’t make it this year. I know.
Yes, it’s still going to be awesome.
Find a group of friends, head to a sports bar, and go watch some soccer. There will be tons of amazing athletes — some you know, some you don’t — competing at the highest level this summer in Russia.
Or, go ahead and latch on to Iceland in its first-ever World Cup appearance. Get everyone to start this chant when they stun Argentina in their opening match:
Egypt is also making its World Cup debut in 2018. Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Tunisia and Iran will be there as well. One of them’s bound to shock us. Why not let it be the team whose bandwagon you join?
Step Five: Follow the recruiting landscape
Your team’s coaching staff is already preparing to hit the recruiting trail in hopes to find a diamond in the rough for their 2019 class. You should be, too!
There are tons of ways to keep track of basketball recruiting. Follow along with The Hoop Group’s recruiting events. Keep track of some of the country’s best AAU circuits.
Or, to make it easy on yourself, just run a quick twitter search every once in a while, either of your school’s name or the name of a player your school has its eye on.
There are some outstanding players in the 2019 class, headlined by names like James Wiseman, Vernon Carey, Cole Anthony, Scottie Lewis and Charles Bassey. You’ve probably never heard of any of them.
Understandable. That won’t last long, though. If all goes well, maybe you’ll be watching one of them light it up for your team in a year’s time. You might as well follow along and hope for the best.
Step Six: Football!
Football. College football, pro football, I don’t care. It’s fun and easy to follow. Time’s just flying by now, isn’t it?
Step Seven: Give baseball one more go
What’s that? The baseball team you absolutely fell madly in love with back in April has slipped into a Wild Card spot in the MLB postseason?
Now, you’ve got four more weeks of excitement to fill the month of October. The MLB playoffs are electric, even if baseball’s not your forté. Fill out a playoff bracket with some buddies and watch the games. You’ll be surprised how similar the division series round feels to the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Okay, it’s only three or four games a day. But still, it’s something.
Maybe your boys will win a World Series. Maybe they’ll get walked off in the bottom of the 11th in the AL Wild Card game on a three-run home run against a division rival. Either way, you had a fun ride.
And suddenly, after less than a month, it’s all over. The New York Yankees are hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy for the 28th time.
Oh, look at that, you’re just a few days away from the return of the college basketball season. You made it. And if you followed this process, it probably didn’t feel too long.
But for now, just enjoy the Final Four. It’s the last sliver of college hoops you’ll have for a long time. The 2018-19 season is just 225 sleeps away.